"Written by Cork people, for Cork people"

The Holly Bough has been an annual tradition in Cork since 1897.

In that time, it has become a staple of the Christmas season in city and county, and among the diaspora around the world.
It has appeared in all 124 years since it began, apart from a few years during the world wars, and in 1948, when there was a paper shortage. The oldest copy in Cork City Library is from 1924.

The Holly Bough contains a plethora of historical stories and photographs about Cork and its people, as well as festive articles, a food & drink section, a junior section including puzzles, fictional short stories and poems by local people, and a sports section.

The magazine is now larger than it has ever been in its history – 164 pages.
Editors down the years have included Stephen Coughlan and Walter McGrath, and the current editor, John Dolan, has been at the helm since 2002.

He attributes its continued success to hard work by generations of people, from writers to in-house journalists, editors and photographers, from printers to distributors, advertisers to contributors. The latter are the backbone of the Holly Bough. “The Holly Bough is written by Cork people, for Cork people” he says.

Christmas decorations on Grand Parade. In centre is Berwick Fountain, which was designed by Sir John Benson and paid for by Judge Berwick 15/12/1930 ©The Echo Archive.

Gallery

Every year, we publish photos of Holly Bough readers posing with the publication all around the world. Here are some of our editor’s favourites this year. Email your photo to hollybough@theecho.ie or follow the steps below where it says Submit a photo or story’.

Reagan O’Sullivan, 7, at home in Los Angeles, California, USA. Her dad Willie is from Mayfield, Cork

Reagan O’Sullivan, 7, at home in Los Angeles, California, USA. Her dad Willie is from Mayfield, Cork

Hiking around the Milford Track on New Zealand's South Island last Christmas, from left, Monica Yee, of Christchurch, New Zealand, Sam Cadogan, of Inniscarra, Fionnuala Murphy, of Ballincollig, Patrick O’Kelly-Lynch, of Frankfield, Cork, Lorcan O’Hara, of Thurles, Tipperary, and Megan Eastes, of Kent, England

Hiking around the Milford Track on New Zealand's South Island last Christmas, from left, Monica Yee, of Christchurch, New Zealand, Sam Cadogan, of Inniscarra, Fionnuala Murphy, of Ballincollig, Patrick O’Kelly-Lynch, of Frankfield, Cork, Lorcan O’Hara, of Thurles, Tipperary, and Megan Eastes, of Kent, England

Con Keogh, 87, who was born and raised on De Valera Street in Youghal, at home in Whitman in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA, with his granddaughter Evelyn Keogh and Torr the dog ahead of this year’s All-Ireland hurling final

Con Keogh, 87, who was born and raised on De Valera Street in Youghal, at home in Whitman in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA, with his granddaughter Evelyn Keogh and Torr the dog ahead of this year’s All-Ireland hurling final

Paul O’Leary, of Ballyvolane, Ciara Colgan, of Parklands, Laura Bridgeman, of Fairhill, and Ian Ricken, of Farranree, on Scarborough Beach, Pert, Australia

Paul O’Leary, of Ballyvolane, Ciara Colgan, of Parklands, Laura Bridgeman, of Fairhill, and Ian Ricken, of Farranree, on Scarborough Beach, Pert, Australia

The Hedderman and Caplice families on top of Carauntoohil, Co, Kerry, in July

The Hedderman and Caplice families on top of Carauntoohil, Co, Kerry, in July

Stuart Manning, formally of Ballyvolane, now living in Woodstock, Virginia, with wife Michelle and daughter Eve, at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Stuart Manning, formally of Ballyvolane, now living in Woodstock, Virginia, with wife Michelle and daughter Eve, at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Helen Mehegan, whose father, Leo, is originally from Nicholas Street, Cork, on her wedding day in Limburg, Germany, with her dad and Anouk, Ray and Kevin Mehegan, and new husband Jan Hilpisch

Helen Mehegan, whose father, Leo, is originally from Nicholas Street, Cork, on her wedding day in Limburg, Germany, with her dad and Anouk, Ray and Kevin Mehegan, and new husband Jan Hilpisch

Aria Healy, of Ballyvolane, enjoying her first Christmas with the Holly Bough

Aria Healy, of Ballyvolane, enjoying her first Christmas with the Holly Bough

Colm McCarthy, originally of Rathcormac, with the Holly Bough in Hampshire, England, where he lives

Colm McCarthy, originally of Rathcormac, with the Holly Bough in Hampshire, England, where he lives

Julie McSweeney, Barry Lovern and Alison Grove, of Millstreet, on top of Erta Ale, an active volcano in north-eastern Ethiopia

Julie McSweeney, Barry Lovern and Alison Grove, of Millstreet, on top of Erta Ale, an active volcano in north-eastern Ethiopia

Luke Maloney, of Commons Road, Marc Lenihan, of Passage West, and Martin Kelly, of Cobh, serving with 117th Inf Battalion UNIFIL in South Lebanon this year

Luke Maloney, of Commons Road, Marc Lenihan, of Passage West, and Martin Kelly, of Cobh, serving with 117th Inf Battalion UNIFIL in South Lebanon this year

Cousins Karen Power, of Fairhill, and Paula Falvey McKellar, of Easons Hill, who met up this year at Niagara Falls with their Canadian partners Kelly and Dave

Cousins Karen Power, of Fairhill, and Paula Falvey McKellar, of Easons Hill, who met up this year at Niagara Falls with their Canadian partners Kelly and Dave

'I wanted to give an instant sense of Christmas in Cork'

Meet this year's Holly Bough cover artist, Keith Anderson 

Self-taught artist and former construction worker Keith Anderson pictured with his artwork on South Gate Bridge, with the River Lee and St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork City, in the background. Picture Dan Linehan. 

IT’S a view that will be instantly recognisable to Corkonians.

In the foreground, the city’s oldest river crossing, the South Gate Bridge, as the shimmering River Lee flows on beneath.
In the background, the magnificent gothic spires of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, standing on hallowed ground that has been a place of worship for Corkonians since the 7th century.

And wait, who’s that character in red crossing the bridge in this wintery scene — it can’t be the man himself can it... oh yes, it can!

This year’s stunningly beautiful Holly Bough cover artwork is a specially commissioned oil painting by the brilliant Cork artist Keith Anderson.

The incredibly-detailed image was based on an original painting by Keith which was specially adapted for the Holly Bough. He does all his work by hand and estimates 100 hours went into this picture perfect work of art.

Keith, who works from his home studio in Douglas, said his aim was simple: "When people see this year’s Holly Bough cover, I want it to give them an instant sense of Christmas in Cork.”He said it was a great honour to be asked to produce this year’s artwork.

“Everyone in Cork knows and loves the Holly Bough,” said Keith. “Growing up as a kid in Douglas, walking into a shop to buy sweets and seeing the red magazine on the news stands was a sure sign the countdown to the big day was on.

“But it wasn’t until I was asked to create the cover artwork, and I read up on its long history, that I truly began to understand its deep tradition.”
Keith buried himself in his work for more than 100 man hours, and Holly Bough Editor John Dolan said: “As the work progressed, I got a real sense of Keith’s passion and love for his art. The resulting cover is truly a thing of beauty.
“For the past six years, I have asked a different Cork artist to design a suitable image for our iconic red cover, and every year I am blown away by the talent we have here in the city and county.”
Keith added: “I feel very honoured to now also be a small part of this big Cork Christmas tradition.”

Keith says he has “an obsession for detail and a constant drive to make each painting better than the last”.

Holly Bough Editor, John Dolan, had an opportunity to interview Keith at The Echo office in Blackpool. You can hear the full podcast here.

PODCASTS

Listen here to all things Holly Bough - an interview with the Cork artist Keith Anderson about how he found the inspiration for the 2021 cover, and a chat with Gerry Diffney, compiler of the hugely popular annual Diffney Quiz.

Editor John Dolan talks to cover artist Keith Anderson about how he came up with this year's brilliant artwork, the hundreds of hours he puts into each oil painting, and why he didn't even study art at school.

The Diffney Quiz has become a staple of the hugely popular annual Holly Bough - a devilishly addictive quiz where letters and numbers are given as clues, and you have to guess what they stand for. Holly Bough editor John Dolan talks to the quiz compiler Gerry Diffney about how it all began, the secrets of its success, and the pride he feels that it unites families at Christmas. And look out for a clue for one of this year's most puzzling Diffney Quiz questions!

Editor John Dolan talks to cover artist Keith Anderson about how he came up with this year's brilliant artwork, the hundreds of hours he puts into each oil painting, and why he didn't even study art at school.

Editor John Dolan talks to cover artist Keith Anderson about how he came up with this year's brilliant artwork, the hundreds of hours he puts into each oil painting, and why he didn't even study art at school.

Submit a photo or story

If you have a story to submit to the Holly Bough, or a photo for the Holly Bough Picture Gallery, you can do it here

Printing the Holly Bough at the Cork Examiner in December 1949

Printing the Holly Bough at the Cork Examiner in December 1949 ©The Echo Archive.

000

Thousand readers wordwide 

000

Years the Holly Bough is a Cork tradition

000

Pages bursting with photos and stories

No.1

Christmas publication in Cork

Now you can access past editions of Holly Bough online

Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021

A treasure trove of Cork history lies within the pages of every Holly Bough - and now you can access past editions of Cork’s favourite Christmas publication at the touch of a button.

This year, the publication was digitised and is available to view online on the Irish Newspaper Archives (INA) website - www.irishnewspaperarchives.com Ireland’s largest digital newspaper archive, the website stores hundreds of thousands of pages of past newspapers, including the Echo and Examiner, and provides easy access to more than 300 years of history.

Holly Boughs dating back to 1924 up to the present day can now be viewed online.

Jonathan Martin, of the INA, said: “We are delighted to have the Holly Bough Christmas magazine on board our website. The Holly Bough has been a wonderful Christmas tradition in Cork city and county since 1897.
“The INA believes this title offers a great snap-shot of times gone past, illustrated beautifully in the photos and articles that capture Ireland at its traditionally happiest time of year.

“We hope that you enjoy reading the archive as much as we did digitising them.

“If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@irishnewspaperarchives.com”

Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021
Holly Bough Cover 2021

The 2021 Holly Bough is out now!

It’s been a year like no other, but, like an old and trusted friend, the Holly Bough will always be there for you, through good times and bad. We have another jam-packed edition lined up for your festive reading this year — full of brilliant and fascinating stories and photographs depicting Cork in times past, many with a festive flavour: prepare to be gripped, moved, surprised, and entertained!

Of course, we have all the favourites you have come to love — the Diffney Quiz, the food and drink section, the Photo Gallery, the prize crossword, and so much more besides!

Among the stories this year, we remember the time opera legend Luciano Pavarotti played Cork City Hall, 

recall how a Cork woman gave a manicure to Princess Grace of Monaco, tell the story of the white-out winter that devastated the country 75 years ago, and reveal the real-life saga of Cork's own castaway Robinson Crusoe. And did you know a Corkman was the inspiration for one of TV's funniest scenes? Plus there are fitting tributes to Cork opera star Cara O'Sullivan and legendary ladies' football manager Eamonn Ryan.

This year, we also commemorate the centenary events of 1921 and 1922 in Cork, including the assassination of Michael Collins and the day the Union Jack was hauled down in Collins Barracks, while our sports section includes tributes to our golden rowing stars.

Holly Bough Cover 2021

Contact the Holly Bough

on email at: 

 or by post at : Holly Bough, The Echo, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork

Holly Bough Cover 2021

Holly Bough 2021

Produced by

The Echo Logo